Jon Reed Goes Off On... October 2007
Monday, October, 22 2007
Manny Doesn’t Care if He Wins or Loses? Maybe We Shouldn’t Either
Manny Ramirez has been taking a lot of flack for some comments he made before Game 5 of the ALCS, potentially an elimination game for the Red Sox. Basically, Ramirez had the audacity to say, and I’m paraphrasing, “I don’t care if we lose - there’s always next year.” Many so-called “fans” were deeply offended, thinking this reflected a lack of appropriate passion for winning with a relaxing season of miniature golf, dreadlock styling and island vacations waiting right around Manny’s corner.
I had the opposite reaction: I was kind of amazed that fans could be so absurdly righteous. Let’s start with just the baseball part of it: first, at the time Manny said it, he was enjoying a heck of a postseason, and had recently broken the all-time record for postseason home runs. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like you cut some slack to someone who runs his mouth while he’s delivering on the field. But beyond that, here’s the kicker: what indignant fans don’t realize is that the same loosey-goosey attitude that came across in Manny’s “always next year” quip is the reason he bats so well at the plate.We’ve seen what can happen to a wound-too-tight hitter (Renteria, Drew, Lugo, etc) in the pressurized Fenway environment. None of that gets to Manny. The same loose detachment that fans despise is the same mentality that got his team a ring and got Bill Buckner out of harm’s way.
But beyond the baseball common sense, this points to a larger issue: is it possible to care about sports, to love sports, to support our teams, without deriving most of our self-esteem from their achievements? Manny’s fundamentally right - there is next year. The same fans who are bitter about Manny’s comments are the ones yelling in my ear right now at the bar, crying about every double play Julio Lugo grounds into as if it has some kind of impact on the future of the free world or their ability to make their next mortgage payment. Manny talks loose because he plays loose, and we should follow his example, caring about what we do, but not to the point where it leads to a bitter obsession. I know that my life is far from perfect, in fact it is like a chaotic and half-finished construction site. But the one thing I can say in my defense is that I don’t channel my existential frustrations into a bout of rage against the greatest right handed hitter of his generation besides Alex Rodriguez. Yep, that’s Manny. Manny being Manny can be a pain, but as it turns out, he’s not such a bad player.
To be fair, Manny probably shouldn’t be celebrating a home run that closes the gap to 7 to 3 in a tough loss. I don’t have an issue with the criticism that has come his way over that kind of antic. But to give Manny a hard time for saying that he’s not going to lie down in the Ted Williams tunnel if the Sox lose, well, more than a few fans could learn from his example.